The Maritimes often see arctic blasts in January, February, and March. This is Canada, this is winter.
However, due to the combination of cold and wind, this Friday through Saturday is shaping up to be the coldest winter “event” Maritime people have experienced in years.
Wind chill values will reach dangerous levels in the waters on Friday night and Saturday as temperatures drop into the mid 20s to early 30s and strong winds of 60 to 80 km/h are expected.
Wind chill values in the -35 to -40 range are expected for most of Nova Scotia, but most of PEI and New Brunswick seem likely to see wind chill values in the -40 to -45 range. . In northern New Brunswick, wind chill can occasionally reach -50 degrees.
Environment Canada has issued weather statements across the maritime sector, including extreme cold warnings for northern and central New Brunswick.
For reference, the last similar event was in February 2015. During that Arctic atmospheric outbreak, much of Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunswick experienced a drop in wind chill values to the -30 to -35 range.
It’s been 14 years since wind chill values fell below -40 at Fredericton and Moncton.
The last time wind chill dipped below -35 degrees in the Halifax metro area has to be dated back to January 2004. That same year, Charlottetown and St. John saw the wind chill drop to -40.
extreme cold is dangerous
So why is wind chill a problem?
Wind chill is an indicator developed from the way we lose heat from our bodies and is much more representative of what we actually feel when we are outside in the cold.
On mild, cold days, our bodies help protect us from outside temperatures by creating a thin layer of warm air close to our skin.
For example, a temperature of -10 with 30 km/h wind feels like -20 when the wind blows away the protective layer.
Cold temperatures of -30s and -40s are expected on Friday night and Saturday, making exposed skin at high risk of frostbite at sea. You can get frostbite on your face and extremities within 10-30 minutes of being outdoors.
There is also the risk of hypothermia if you are outdoors for long periods of time without proper clothing or shelter from the cold and wind.
Environment Canada has more information about wind chill, exposure, and tips on how to prevent and treat cold injuries. website.